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Smappee is like Shazam for appliances: Hands on with the smart energy analyser

Smappee tells you which of your appliances are using the most juice – and costing you the most money. 

But while every smart energy and smart heating systems under the sun claims to do that, Smappee differs by attempting to measure the energy consumed by individual appliances. 

This way, you’ll be able to see which of your appliances, whether it’s a new 4K OLED TV, a games console or an old fridge freezer, that’s causing the biggest dent in your heating bill and act accordingly. 

We caught up with Smappee’s Stefan Grosjean and Richard Morgan (CEO and business development manager respectively), to find out more about how it works. 

Smappee aims to keep tabs on domestic gas guzzlers

It’s impossible to dislike Grosjean. Boundlessly enthusiastic, he talked grandly about Smappee’s potential to do all sorts of things, such as hook up to solar panels and hybrid boilers and work with Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem

Mainly, Grosjean wants customers to use Smappee to save money – and ease the strain on national grids, which will help countries like the UK avoid brownouts and blackouts. 

So how much can you save in real terms with the Smappee Monitor and is it worth that £169 investment? “Studies indicate that you can save up to 12 per cent on energy bills a year if you have the right information about your appliances,” Grosjean said.  

“But what is that right information? It’s not just a smart meter reading. If you get an enhanced bill, you’ll see that you maybe spent too much money on energy that month and you think ‘whoa, maybe we’d better go easy.’ But unless you’re able to know what it is you need to go easy on, it’s of little use to you.”

By treating your energy outgoings like a bank statement, telling you what’s guzzling the most juice, Smappee’s idea is that you’ll modify your usage accordingly.

“We believe that if you can give customers an itemised bill, that breaks down what is costing them the most money, you’ll be able to see that your fridge is costing you so much, or your TV is costing you so much.”

Fusion power: Smappee side by side with your standard fuse box

Smappee has identified the energy sugnatures of over 80 common appliances – so you don’t need to invest in 80 smart plugs to monitor usage. Instead of connecting smart plugs or sensors all around the house, which could be expensive, Smappee’s Monitor product goes for the jugular – the main wire that connects to your meter.

Explaining how Smappee works, so Grosjean reached for a household name to describe the process. 

“We thought of Shazam. You listen to a song and your phone tells you its the Rolling Stones. We do the same, but for electrical goods.”

What Smappee does is ‘listen’ to the noises made by your home appliances by attaching a current sensor to the main wire that comes from your meter and goes into the fuse box.

“As the electrons go into the home to feed the different appliances, they generate a magnetic field because they move from one place to another. We can measure this magnetic field around the wire so accurately and finely, hundreds of thousands of times a second, that we’re able to determine which appliances are being used. An LG fridge will generate the same kind of signal as a Samsung fridge.”

Smappee says that it’s identified the magnetic fingerprints of over 80 common household appliances. This, Grosjean says, means you don’t have to shell out for 80 smart plugs in order to measure the signals. By going straight for the source, you can identify the biggest culprits quickly. 

Finger on the pulse: Smappee’s current sensor goes for the jugular

Grosjean and Morgan admitted that there are some things that Smappee can’t identify yet and that appliances using a seriously small amount of power can’t be detected at all; things like LED lights and two-watt radios.

Future updates will see Smappee’s identity parade expand and as for small fry like LED lights, Smappee’s simply not that bothered.

Morgan said: “We’ve found that some customers tend to relate to waste that’s immediately visible. So if a light’s been left on they’ll turn those off, thinking they’re saving money. But in reality, modern LED lights account for something like 0.1 per cent of your usage.”

“What we really want to do is shake up customer’s perceptions of what is costing you the most money. The biggest energy usage on your house is actually invisible. Things like the kitchen under floor heating, the fridge freezer, the microwave that’s on standby, these are just some of the things that make the biggest dents on energy income.”

While knowing what is cutting the biggest hole in your pocket is all well and good, knowing is, they say, half the battle. 

While Smappee can identify what’s using the most power, if you want to turn off a TV or games console that’s been left on, you’ll need to get a smart plug at some point.

Home comforts: The European version of Smappee’s Comfort Plugs

“The next step would be to have a calculator in the app that says ‘your fridge freezer is three times less efficient than the market average – here’s some deals’.” Richard Morgan, business development manager, SmappeeSmappee’s own Comfort Plugs have been configured to work with the Monitor and can be bought in packs of three for £35. 

Unfortunately, you can’t buy individual plugs yet. So if you wanted to get enough plugs to control ten big appliances, that’d set you back another £140. 

There will be some big appliances, like fridge freezers, that you’ll rarely want to switch off, so there’s no point in getting a Comfort Plug for something like this. 

If you’ve got a seriously old unit, you might be surprised by how much it’s costing to run, so installing Smappee might prompt you to shop around. 

Morgan told us that when he joined the company he set up Smappee in his home and realised how much his 20-year old fridge freezer was costing him to run every month.

Working out that in nine months he would have made back the cost of a new, rated A for energy efficiency fridge, Morgan promptly dumped the old unit. 

We asked if Smappee had considered letting customers share their energy readings with price comparison services. Morgan said that it’s something the company has considered and envisioned a future where sharing data could see companies offering you deals on new appliances. 

“The next step for us would be to have a little calculator in the app that might say ‘your fridge freezer is three times less efficient than the market average, here’s some deals for you to consider, and so on. There’s certainly room for something like that,” Morgan said.  

It’ll be a while (if at all) before you’ll start to get deals pinged to your phone. In the meantime, you can invest in a Smappee Monitor (£169) now to start working out what’s burning the biggest hole in your pocket. 

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